In 2011, Oakland traveled to the East Coast to take on the Fitzpatrick-led Buffalo Bills. The game was a high-scoring back and forth thriller, with Buffalo scoring a game-winning touchdown to David Nelson with fourteen seconds remaining. It was perhaps the most heartbreaking loss in an ultimately disappointing season. Leave it to Fitzpatrick to once again deliver a disappointing loss to the Silver and Black. Two seasons later, Fitzpatrick led his team cross country and delivered the game-sealing dagger with ten seconds left. With the AFC’s sixth-seed up for grabs, Oakland simply wasn’t able to get it done. Here’s a few notes I took from this game.
– Facing a secondary missing its first-round draft pick and starting free safety, Fitzpatrick bobbed and weaved his way through the Oakland defense with an impressive performance. The Raiders were able to apply an intense amount of pressure to Fitzpatrick, but he was able to elude sack after sack and get throws off just in time. At one point, Fitzpatrick had been hurried on 14 attempts, hit on 10 attempts, and was sacked just once. His mobility bought him additional time on throws and clearly caught the Raiders off-guard. The Titans were 10/18 on third down as the Raiders defense simply could not contain Kendall Wright or Justin Hunter, both of whom had 100+ yard games and averaged over seventeen yards a catch. When Fitzpatrick was able to get into a rhythm, he was even more devastating; Fitzpatrick was 8/10 on the game’s final drive, including two third-down conversions within the game’s final thirty seconds, for 67 yards and a TD to Kendall Wright.
It was a disappointing end to an otherwise good defensive day for Oakland, who had held the Titans to three redzone field goals until that point. With how Tennesee and Houston have moved the ball up and down the field against the Raiders, a strong redzone defense is imperative to keeping the score within reason. The Raiders have only allowed one TD from their opponents in the redzone in the past eight drives. It was unfortunate that said touchdown was the game-winning dive by Wright, but Tarver’s scheme seems effective at keeping teams out of the endzone. It would be nice to see him apply pressure and not rely on soft zone coverage all of the time, though.
– The usually steady special teams suffered another setback today with the continuation of the holding drama between King and Janikowski. After a clutch punt block late in the second quarter and a 30-yard strike by McGloin, the Raiders were primed to go up 12-6 before Janikowski missed another field goal from the left hashmark. The offense again moved the ball into field goal range quickly, but Seabass missed from the other direction as well. Clearly frustrated, Janikowski told sideline reporter Lincoln Kennedy that he “was not pleased with King’s hold.” The early-season struggles of King’s holding are apparently not completely gone, but Janikowski must show that he is worth the huge contract he signed and succeed.
– Despite the heartbreaking loss, the Raiders at least find solace in having a solid quarterback in McGloin. After a terrible early interception, McGloin rebounded very nicely and turned in a great game. He suffered from four batted passes in the first half, but the rookie from Scranton gave life to the Raiders’ vertical offense for the second week in a row with two quick drives towards the end of the second quarter. He moved the ball up and down the field against Tennessee, but the team couldn’t convert on many drives and had to settle for field goals (which, obviously, was an issue in this game). His chemistry with Rod Streater and Andre Holmes was particularly nice; Streater regularly made eye-popping catches and took a huge hit a number of times to keep the chaines moving, and Holmes seems to be developing nicely as a depth receiver for the Raiders. McGloin moved very nicely in the pocket and wasn’t sacked once, and he will start on Thursday against the Cowboys.
– The run game seems to have a nice balance of power and explosiveness, but it should only be improving for the rest of the season. Rashad Jennings regularly displays power and aggressiveness on runs and had another great game with 16 rushes for 73 yards (4.6 ypa). The Raiders may want to think about extending Jennings’ contract, as he has proven to be a great fit for Greg Olson’s offense as a power runner. It was also nice to see Marcel Reece with a decent workload, as he had a nice third-down conversion where he hurdled a defender and was the receiver for Oakland’s only TD of the day. He was also the primary runningback for a number of Wildcat plays, which was confusing and ineffective, but it was really nice to see Olson at least trying to get him involved. Oakland’s running game should only be improving in the next few weeks, as both Jared Veldheer and Darren McFadden are expected to suit up for Thursday’s game against the Cowboys.
– Pay attention to the injuries to Mychal Rivera, Kevin Burnett, and Mike Jenkins. Rivera’s hit in the second quarter sent his helmet flying over ten yards and he was on the field for a while. He was later reported to have a concussion, and with how hard that hit was, he may not be very likely to play against the Cowboys. Mike Jenkins went to the locker room shortly before Burnett was hurt, and the Raiders’ defense clearly suffered from not having him on the field.